CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Maryknoll students at World Youth Day

Beatrice Lau and Stephanie Young, from the Maryknoll Convent School in Kowloon Tong, reflect on their experience at World Youth Day in Europe during July and August


It is easy to stay in the box. It is easy to ignore opportunities offered to you on a plate, because it does not require effort. 

And frankly, I have always tended to do that, constantly making the excuse, “Hey, I should focus on what I’m doing.” However, I’m glad that I took advantage of this opportunity.

God. A word that we have long been hearing and learning about; so near to us, yet also so far. In our daily lives, our voices are too loud, they cover his. We are used to controlling our own lives, telling our own stories, lost in our own thoughts. It is funny that we need to get away to feel his presence, but perhaps we, as people, always need a little help from him.

Throughout our trip to World Youth Day, experiences and situations came to us, not the other way round, as we are accustomed. We couldn’t control them all and we had no idea what awaited us.

The only thing we could control was our belief that God has everything prepared for us, and there we felt that he was really with us all along.

The beautiful thing about World Youth Day was that every single one of us felt him on different occasions and in different ways. We went to so many places, learned so much about history and culture, experienced so many things. For me, his presence struck me in three particular ways.

The first of these related to the host families. We were lucky enough to have families willing to take us into their homes. They literally had no idea who we were and yet still welcomed us.

I like the phrase I heard during the trip—they open wide their doors and let us in. They treated us like family, cared for us and we cannot thank them enough. They opened wide the doors not only to their homes, but also to their hearts.

Two nights in, and we found ourselves laughing together, sharing lives and experiences around the dining table. They helped us be comfortable in this foreign land, just as God helped us be confident in this whole new experience.

The second related to the Masses we went to, once a day, right from the very first day of the trip. I thought it would be a drag, but I was surprised to find that it wasn’t.

We went to different places for Mass every day and heard it in different languages. This part of the trip was actually quite special. But the most memorable was the closing Mass in Campus Misericordiae
—which means Field of Mercy.

There, we had a Mass with Pope Francis, though we could hardly see him as he was so far away. We couldn’t understand his language either, though with the help of the simultaneous translation over the radio, we were able to receive the message he had for us—God never looks down upon us and is willing to bet on our future instead of ruminating over our past sins, because he sees our inner potential.

He instils in each of us something that could shine. The only thing left here to do is to open ourselves to him and believe in his belief in us. It was such a powerful message and his words left us feeling stronger.

The last and maybe most important, related to the experience of reconciliation. It was a nearly spontaneous decision when I said, “Why not?” when Ms Fung asked us if we want to go for one.

So I went, and I am really thankful that I did. It is highly unusual to repent on grass with individual confessionals under a clear blue sky. It was so beautiful and inviting.

After my confession, I was so struck with emotion that I had no idea what a reconciliation could arouse in me. The priest asked me, “What have you felt during this whole trip?”

I said I felt loved. It may seem like the standard answer, yet it came out of my mouth without much thought.

I was so used to letting events pass without remembering or feeling much about them, but deep down there’s always something left. 

This question dug out all these memories and feelings, and left me realising that I have always been in the embrace of the Lord.

I guess it was this realisation that mattered more than pulling me closer. We don’t stray far; we have only to turn our heads away out of embarrassment and reconciliation helps us turn our heads to see who is beside us.

Reconciliation makes us aware of the truth.

I have not regretted one bit that I followed my heart and handed in my application form. This trip will always be treasured by me; an experience that I can look back on whenever I need to.

And I believe there are still lessons I have learned there that I have not yet become aware of and that I will find them becoming a part of me some day.


                           • Beatrice Lau 
Form Four

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